Biology Students Study Animal Behavior With Nashville Zoo
For the students in Belmont Biology Professor Dr. John Niedzwiecki’s Animal Behavior course, spending hours each week at the Nashville Zoo was not a way to avoid studying, but a large part of their coursework. As a semester-long lab project designed to give students the opportunity to observe and research animal behavior in a hands-on way, students were assigned an animal and came up with a testable hypothesis to study.
The teams worked with a variety of animals including kangaroos, elephants and red pandas, among others. Once students received their assignments, they met with the animal’s keepers to begin the scientific process. Topics of study were varied and included social groupings, dominance and animal alertness.
Director of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Heather Robertson said the chance to have the students work with zoo staff was a mutually beneficial experience. “Our relationship with the students at Belmont not only helped them apply the skills they have learned in the classroom, but also provided the Zoo with valuable research that can be used to improve the quality of care for our animal collection.”
For junior neuroscience major Miranda West, the chance to work in the zoo for the semester had a larger impact than expected. West said her work with the elephants instilled a new appreciation for nature, life and education. “I had moments of awe after staring at the elephants for hours. I would think to myself, ‘Wow, that being is living and breathing just like me.’ God’s work and attention to detail, even in the animal kingdom, amazes me.”